With medical costs on the increase and incomes not keeping pace, most people don't realize that they have the power to negotiate their medical bills and to reduce and even eliminate a portion of their expenses. Medical facilities often pass on higher prices to unaware consumers without them knowing that they can dispute and argue the prices on their medical bills. By arming yourself with information, you may be able to reduce and eliminate some of your medical expenses altogether.
Gather all medical bills and review them carefully. Compare your medical bills with what your insurance provider lists as negotiated prices -- what it pays and your co-payments -- to ensure accuracy. Many medical bills contain errors, duplicate billings or don't include what your insurance provider paid. Negotiate with the medical provider for an reduction or write off by identifying how you have been overcharged or double-charged, especially if your insurance already paid for your medical service.
Contact the billing department and explain your situation. Many hospitals and clinics maintain hardship or charity programs to help low-income people. Instead of relying on just one person's response, discuss your request with different employees such as the billing representative or the supervisor.
Apply for assistance through government or non-profit programs that help consumers. Federally funded Medicaid programs are available in every state. Eligibility is based on your income and assets. If you are approved for Medicaid, then some of your bills might be paid retroactively.
Evaluate your state's statute of limitations. Medical bills stem from services you received, for which you likely signed a contract and consented to the services. Each state has different statutes of limitations that specify how long creditors have to pursue a debt. Once the statute of limitations has passed, a collection agency or the medical facility can no longer collect the debt.
Declare bankruptcy. Unlike student loans, some medical bills usually can be written off through a bankruptcy. Medical costs represent a common reason why people file bankruptcy. Long-term consequences result from doing this, as your credit can be affected for up to 10 years, and you must disclose the bankruptcy whenever asked, such as by a potential employer or creditor.
Elective treatments such as cosmetic surgery are medical bills that often are difficult to get written off.
Forgiven and written off are not synonymous. Always strive to get bills forgiven and not simply sold to a collector.